No one looks forward to a breakup: They are painful, and often bring about a physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual change within yourself, which can be hard to weather. But sometimes breakups are necessary — so how do you know if you should break up with someone? How can you know definitively that now is the time to leave, and there are no other options?
I asked 13 relationship experts that question, and they all had slightly different takes on the question. First and foremost, it must be said here that you must leave if there is abuse of any kind. This is important enough that it's worth repeating: If you are being abused, on any level, you have to end the relationship, no matter how painful that might feel and no matter how scared you might be to be on your own. Also, if you're having the same arguments over and over again, or you've completely lost hope, you're in probably in the same boat — time to go. That said, there are plenty of other flags to which to pay attention if you're thinking it might be time to split with your partner. Here are 13 ways to know you should break up with someone.
1. You're Afraid Of Leaving
"Always break up with someone if you don't feel like yourself when you are with them," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. Other reasons to leave: "Your gut says you don't love them," Rogers says, "or you know you don't want to be with them anymore, but feel like you're a bad person if you leave."
All three are huge red flags — if you're not yourself when you're with your partner, you patently can't go on together. Same if your gut tells you that you don't love them — and above all, you can never stay with someone just because you're afraid of hurting them if you leave. "Humans are resilient, people bounce back," Rogers reminds.
2. Your Partner Retaliates Against You
"Any time you feel that you are blatantly and repeatedly disrespected by a partner, or if physical violence is involved in any way, it’s time to consider ending the relationship," marriage counselor Jessica Wade tells Bustle. "If retaliation — silent treatment, withholding sex, name calling, physical aggression — is present in your relationship, despite attempts to change the pattern, you should see this as a sign that disrespect will turn toward mistreatment regularly, and ask yourself, 'Do I deserve to be treated this way?'" Clearly, the answer is a resounding "no" — and if this is happening, seek help and leave ASAP.
3. There Is Abuse Of Any Kind
"If you are even thinking this question, I would say that is red flag number one," Marina Sbrochi, IPPY award-winning author of Stop Looking for a Husband: Find the Love of Your Life tells Bustle. "Regarding flag number two — even though this is always a number one — if there is any abuse going on," you absolutely have to exit the relationship. This includes all types of abuse, of course: physical, emotional, financial, Sbrochi adds.
4. You Have The Same Arguments Over And Over
"You should break up with someone if you continue to have the same couples' conflicts and arguments repeatedly and your partner refuses to support satisfying your needs," Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills child, parenting, and relationship psychotherapist tells Bustle. "A healthy working relationship requires two willing participates who want to please each other’s wants and needs." If you don't have that, you don't have anything.
5. Your Gut Is Telling You To Leave
"Listen to your inner voice," Boston-based clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner tells Bustle. "What is your first thought when you ask yourself if you should stay with someone?" The gut is important here — if you keep asking yourself (and your friends, and your coworkers, and your shrink, and anyone who will listen) if you should leave, you should.
"Also ask — how happy are you in the relationship [on a spectrum of one to 100]," Wegner says. "If the number is the number is less than 70, there is a good chance that this is not someone to stay with."
6. Your Partner Doesn't Really Want To Be In The Relationship
"Your partner is not reliable, doesn't show up, doesn't keep promises," Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. "Your partner won't work with you to solve problems or get things done [or] has too many emotional outbursts, throws hissy fits or temper tantrums when something goes wrong." In other words, you're dealing with someone who doesn't really want to be in the relationship. Not OK.
7. Your Problems Aren't Solvable
"There is no clear black and white answer unless there is abuse, in which 'leave' is the correct answer," zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle. As long as there's no abuse, it's wise "to weigh quite a few factors," she says. "Are you simply being self-protecting and you might be afraid of being loved?" If this is the case, open your heart and see what happens.
More questions Paiva suggests you ask yourself: "Is what you feel boredom — or comfort? Are you jealous by nature — or are they simply triggering you?" It's possible that what you think is boredom is actually a nice sense of stability, but perhaps you're not used to it yet. And it's also possible that feelings of jealousy are your own issue, and have nothing to do with a partner with a wandering eye. But it's also entirely possible that such issues are real, and if they are, be honest with yourself and your partner. "Weigh options and triggers to best address the situation," Paiva advises.
8. You Don't Recognize Yourself
"If you find yourself unrecognizable to yourself and loved ones, it may be a sign you should break up with your partner," psychologist and breakup coach Joy Harden Bradford tells Bustle. "We all change in some ways in relationships, but the changes shouldn't be so drastic that there is little to no trace of the person you were before you got into this relationship." If that happens, you have to get out.
"You should ask yourself, 'Have I changed in ways that have enhanced my life, or changed to make it more likely this person will love me?'" she says. If it's the latter, you have your answer. "The answer should help you make a decision," she adds.
9. You've Lost Hope
"It's time to break up when you've lost all hope and you're planning an escape," Gestalt life coach Nina Rubin tells Bustle. "When you feel badly about yourself and start wanting to make lots of changes to yourself all at once," you know it's time to go, she says.
Support yourself and make that change. Under all of these circumstances, deuces: "When you feel like your eyes have lost their sparkle and your heart feels dull, you're upset or indifferent most of the time, rather than joyful to see or spend time together, [or] you've expressed your needs and they've still gone unmet," says Rubin.
10. You Can't Forgive A Betrayal
"If someone you are dating or involved in a long-term relationship with has betrayed you in a way that you cannot get past — cheating, lying, addiction — then it is time to end the relationship for your own emotional health," executive editor and founder of Cupid's Pulse Lori Bizzoco tells Bustle. "Remember, ending a relationship with someone is a personal decision and only you know what is healthy or unhealthy for you." Above all, don't stay with someone if you know you'll hold this betrayal over their head — and your own — forever.
"The bottom line is if you aren't feeling good inside, or not able to trust or be yourself with your partner, then you should rethink having a relationship with them," Bizzoco says. Without trust, you have nothing in a relationship.
11. The Negatives Outweigh The Positives
"You should break up with someone when the negatives have seriously started to outweigh the positives," psychologist Nicole Martinez, who is the author of eight books, including The Reality of Relationships , tells Bustle. "When the person makes you feel bad about yourself, and cuts you down [or] when the person you are with uses power and control to try and keep you in the relationship with them, and when the positive communication skills between the two of you are nonexistent,[it's time to breakup]," Martinez says. "Some relationships just do not work out, and you have to be honest with yourself when things have crossed the point of no return."
And that is totally OK — just be gentle with yourself and your partner. "A breakup should only happen after you have tried everything you can think of to fix things, if the person has ever been physical, or you have lost romantic feelings for your partner and do not see any way to get them back." At that point, it's time to release the relationship into the universe with love.
12. You Discover Deal-Breakers
"Before you ever started to date, I hope you made a list of what you wanted in a partner," Dawn Maslar, aka “the Love Biologist,” tells Bustle. "Even more importantly, I hope you make a list of deal-breakers." And if your mate doesn't measure up to what you really want in a true partner — or if they exhibit one or more deal-breakers — you can't continue on together.
"For example, drug use may be your deal-breaker," Maslar says. "Of course, this may not show up right away. But as soon as it does, don't compromise or try to change them." Accept that you've hit a deal-breaker in the road, and be prepared to leave. "Be true to yourself and find someone better suited for you," she says.
13. You're Not Connected
"It’s important to feel connected to your partner and there will come times that you don’t," Danielle Sepulveres, sex educator and author of Losing It: The Semi-Scandalous Story of an Ex-Virgin, tells Bustle. "Be it job stress or lack of communication, but if your significant other isn’t understanding that you’re feeling a distance between the two of you or willing to discuss it, then it’s time to think about moving on."
Of course ebbs and flows will happen, but if the ebb has been present for far too long, you may want to seriously consider leaving. "Someone who isn’t taking an interest in your feelings or refusing to address issues is a person who will continue to behave that way," she says. Be real with yourself and see things for what they are — not what you wish they might be someday.
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